Many of you know my deep and abiding ambivalence towards on-camera acting (what? being in front of the camera is not an ideal career for an introvert? Imagine!), as opposed to the almost-constant pleasure of voiceover acting. I say no a vast number of times more than I say yes to TV auditions. And yet, there is sometimes the case where I’ve got to go. There is a kind of role that I have a particular affinity for: Buddhist monks. I played one for “Family Law” about seventy years ago and have always hankered to put on the saffron robes once again. I maintain that it’s because it puts me in touch with an inner stillness; Doug insists it’s because it gives me license to shave my head. Both, I must admit, are correct.
This monk was of the Shaolin variety, for a tween TV sitcom (rather foreboding non-disclosure rules prevents me from being more specific). You know, one of those after-school shows, ubiquitous on the Cartoon Network, Disney and Nickelodeon featuring a uniformly pretty and/or geeky cast genetically designed to make you feel REALLY REALLY OLD. Luckily, I was auditioning for one of the higher-up, senior monks, which on this show meant I was over thirty.
I had a good laugh at myself driving to the audition because of a particularly egregious oversight I had made. I was going over my sides— I had a really good voice for this elder, all gravelly and crusty— when I happened to look into the rear-view mirror. Ten blocks from the studio, I remembered: this isn’t a voiceover audition. You can’t sound like a 65 -year-old wizened sensei when you look like you’re in your 40’s. Oops. I adjusted accordingly. Ten years younger!
When I got there, there was the usual panoply of Asian men, all shapes and sizes. A few of them were wearing full martial arts regalia, some had on the traditional Chinese frog-buttoned jackets. I had opted for a simple T-shirt and white pants because, well, Doug had made me change out of a more character-driven yoga pants and peasant-brown sweatshirt. I have to admit (yes, get out your scorecard, Doug) that he was right: if you get too costume-y in these general auditions, it tends too look a little… desperate. I don’t know where everyone else stands on this issue; certainly I’ve known some experienced people to pull on a lab coat when making the “CSI” rounds…
The auditions were run by kids who I swear were not much younger than my son Benjamin. They seemed amused by my character, or, to put it more exactly, they liked my eyebrow-arching, which pretty much sums up my character. It was silly, and it was fun.
And I got the part.
I’m going Telly Savalas, Doug! Who loves ya?
the wholeness of the sangha,